Opening remarks at the ASIC UTS AI Regulators Symposium

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Good evening, everyone: the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones, Commissioners, colleagues and guests.

Welcome to the ASIC UTS AI Regulators Symposium.

This has been in discussion for quite a while and I take a lot of personal satisfaction from this coming together, and a special thanks to Professor Nick Davis and Graham Jefferson from ASIC for pulling this together.

I was last here in January, when I had the privilege of delivering the keynote address at the university’s Shaping Our Future Symposium. At that forum, I spoke about the current and future state of AI regulation.

Today, we are continuing the conversation, as we bring together academics, industry experts and government to consider how we bridge the divide between the regulation we have and the regulation we need.

While generative AI technology is well advanced – and its development continues apace – we should not cede to defeatist notions that the horse has bolted.

Government and regulators can – and must – have a hand in shaping how AI technology is designed and deployed. It needs to accord with the values and rights on which our social stability and individual liberties depend.

We should avoid, as well, the notion that AI is too complex to be knowable. Like all technology, AI is the product of human ingenuity and can therefore, by definition, be understood. Moreover, it is the job of government and regulators to ensure that these systems are explainable and transparent.

Fatalistic fears of sentient technology overrunning humanity are the stuff of nightmares – and science fiction. We should not let these existential anxieties – grimly enthralling though they are – distract us from the task in hand.

Our job is to mitigate the known risks – and, in doing so, bend the trajectory away from the worst imagined outcomes, so that they never materialise.

One such risk that ASIC is concerned with, for example, is the use of AI to super-charge scams at scale. This is an issue that has sometimes been overshadowed by speculation about the more apocalyptic outcomes that have captured so much of the conversation around AI. But, at an individual level, the consequences could be devastating.

There are also, of course, a great number of opportunities to use AI for good.

Yesterday, ASIC released its report into our review of the financial hardship practices of lenders. The report shows that home loan lenders have made accessing financial hardship assistance so difficult that more than one in three applicants dropped out of the process.

So, I hope industry will be looking at how it can use AI to improve outcomes for consumers.

Across Australia, a consensus is developing: we need a strong regulatory framework to steer the course of AI towards its safe and responsible development and use. A framework that enables technological innovation to flourish, so that it can deliver the promised economic benefits and productivity improvements. But not at the expense of consumers and investors.

Someone who has been facing into this challenge is our keynote speaker: the Honourable Stephen Jones, Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services.

Minister, on behalf of ASIC and UTS, we thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.

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